Funding: Cancer / Neuron CURE (Cell Biology) and Synthetic Biology (Genetics)

Nathan Reyna, Ouachita Baptist University

CURE Description

We have two funded or partially funded CUREs.

1. Cancer/Neuron CURE. In this CURE, students work in groups to examine the influence of various chemicals on cell differentiation and apoptosis. Students are responsible for maintaining cells, preparing media, developing hypotheses, and designing and conducting experiments to test their hypotheses. For example, in spring 2018, we examined the role of exosomes in neuron or neuron-like differentiation. The course typically enrolls ~40 students with two 20-student lab sections, working in teams of four or five. The main research outcomes of this project are pilot tested techniques and pilot datasets, results, and proofs of concept that serve as the basis for research internship projects.

2. Synthetic Biology/Genetics CURE. Student work in groups as mini-iGEM teams to characterize genetic parts. Individual students design novel devices to test promoter and terminator strength and ribosome binding site sequences. The course typically enrolls ~40 students with two 20-student lab sections, working in teams of two or three. The main research outcomes of this project are tried, tested, and characterized promoter sequences and other regulatory elements, which are either published or contributed to the iGEM database.

How long as the CURE been in place? The Cancer/Neuron CURE has been in place two years and the Synthetic Biology CURE has been in place eight years.

Funding Information

Source(s): We have found a variety of funding sources as well as sources for materials, supplies, and core facilities to help lower our costs, including:

Funding Source: Federal Grant, Institutional Grant, Instructional Budget, Lab Fees, Private Foundation, State Grant

Funding Amount: $200,000-300,000 total

CURE Elements Supported by the Funding

Every time we write an equipment grant, we build in support for some aspects of the CUREs we offer. For example, I developed my Cancer/Neuron CURE to be a integral part of my NSF-EPSCoR grant. As a result of this I now spend about $5,00-10,000 a year from NSF on this course. Research from the class feeds into research output for my grant.

I task students with writing for voucher grants, which are available in INBRE states. These small grants can be used at state core facilities, which are obligated to involve undergraduates and to engage in within-state collaboration in order to receive INBRE support. We make sure to point out that our CUREs broaden access to research far beyond what would be available through individual student research and we make this apparent by having the entire class write the proposal. We have written several proposals for mass spectrometry services and are consistently successful in getting funding for this. We have received over $15,000 in core facility vouchers to date.

In equipment grant proposals, we make a special point of noting how many students will be impacted through the CURE. The equipment is not for single lab to use but rather for a whole class, year after year. Indeed, our philosophy is for the entire class use the equipment. This means that sometimes things can get broken, but we would not have had the equipment without the CURE. We have been able to purchase over $200,000 in equipment over the past decade by integrating the CUREs into grant proposals.

Evolution of Funding Over Time

We are constantly doing new and better projects and using funding success to create leverage for future support. For example, we recently bought a new plate reader from TECAN. When I explained what we were doing to my contacts at TECAN, they were willing to discount the project. My administration was also willing to provide $16,000 of support after I got an extramural grant of $20,000 to cover most of the equipment. In the end, my university essentially paid $16,000 for a $100,000 plate reader. Our research is now to the quality that I can write for research grants. Furthermore, we have collected enough data on student outcomes to apply for and earn CURE-specific grants.